Get Rid of Check-the-Box Online Learning

The following is an interview with Dean Pianta, Solutions Manager, Adobe. To learn more about how your agency can excel with virtual training, be sure to check out our guide: The Virtual Training Playbook for Government.

Over the past twenty years, the online learning environment has changed dramatically. A quick review of the market reveals hundreds of tools and learning management systems (LMS). Although standards exist (i.e. SCORM, AICC, etc.), the overall complexity and sheer number of options available are not helping organizations figure out how best to improve the training mission.

Historically, the LMS was about managing courseware, students, and classrooms. Reporting was confined to who viewed a course; who passed it; and who needed to take it. “From a human resource standpoint, we had to keep track of continuing education required to stay current in someone’s role,” explained Dean Pianta, Solutions Manager, Adobe. “It was more of a ‘check-the-box’ proposition – that was all.”

The old model failed to put the learner at the center of the equation. “The new model of learning needs to be expanded to manage the actually learning going on,” said Pianta. “What is being learned, what learning objectives are missed most often, what experts exist in the field, and how do we analyze feedback to improve learning.”

“When we look at training solutions, we have to embrace solutions that support both the formal and informal aspects of learning,” added Pianta. “At Adobe we call our model ‘continuous learning.’ The theme draws on the strengths that Adobe has as a web content leader with Adobe Experience Manager (AEM). Yes, you have to upload a course and deploy it, but you also have to think about how someone is going to consume the information and how the learning process will take place. We have to shift our thinking to how people learn, how we gauge that, and then how we improve the deployment of learning to maximize value from the learning system.”

As one example, Pianta shared how the military needed to transfer a three-day in-person course about diabetes online while retaining the complex content and making the course interesting and digestible.

“The question becomes, what do we do with three days of PowerPoints?” asked Pianta. “When we go to these new continuous learning profiles we save money and achieve better learning but only if we change the learning methods to accommodate an online or blended delivery. Fundamentally, we need to understand we didn’t walk through slides when we were face to face in a classroom. In fact, the instructor provided the actual learning – through activities, case studies, dialogue, etc., and the presentation was, in fact, a visual aide. Unfortunately, all too often we did take the visual aides (the PowerPoint) and base an online course simply on them. That was, and still is, a mistake. We can’t just shove slides into a synchronous room and expect to have people sit at their desk looking at a computer screen for three days straight. We can try to compensate for human the lack of human contact, but at the end of the day, we have to realize that the entire learning program needs to be broken down into a set of assets: documents, video, activities, virtual classrooms, assignments, etc.”

Within a continuous, blended learning program, Pianta said virtual learning instructors should always ask these three questions:

  1. How are learners proceeding down this learning path?
  2. Why is no one looking at this one asset?
  3. Why is everyone missing this learning objective?

At the end of the day, “No chief learning officer is thinking about how to build a single course,” explained Pianta. “They’re thinking about, how do I serve the enterprise next year by creating 85 courses? He needs to know which courses will help the most students in the most effective way.”

For more information, be sure to check out our guide: The Virtual Training Playbook for Government


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